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New Year, new walks: ideas for rainy (and sunny) days in San Francisco

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When it started to rain recently, it took a little more effort to get me out of the house on a walk. However, I quickly realized the benefits of winter walking. Rain and fog really transform a landscape that I’d become all too familiar with.

On a foggy or drizzly day, views disappear, making a short walk seem like a trip to another land. In addition, there are entire new parks and trails that weren’t available to us last winter!

With a little extra preparation and adventurous spirit, you can stay in the city and have a new experience on foot. Here are some new destinations and inspiration for all-weather walks in the New Year. 

New places to go on foot, rain or shine

The Entwined Light display in Golden Gate Park… in the early morning!

This light display has so transformed Peacock Meadow, it doesn’t feel like the same place. Instead of going in the evening, treat yourself to a walk at 7AM when the lights are on and you can have the whole forest to yourself. It’s especially beautiful in wet weather. I bring a picnic breakfast. More about Entwined.

Quartermaster Reach Marsh

This trail and marsh restoration project was just completed in the Presidio. While this trail may look tiny, it is an important connection between El Polin Springs and Crissy Field. It’s a perfect walk for a rainy day: start at El Polin Springs and follow the watershed to the bay. Here’s a self-guided walk of the Tennessee Valley Watershed, which includes the Quartermaster Reach Marsh.

Crane Cove Park

What? You haven’t been there yet? Time to go. This new waterfront park (pictured above) near the Chase Center has interesting views and a beach full of stones perfect for tossing into the water. If you’d like a longer walk through a rapidly changing area, continue your walk all the way to Heron’s Head park. It will look different in the coming years. More about Crane Cove Park.

Buena Vista Park
Recent work on the park has unearthed long-hidden trails and/or created some new ones in San Francisco’s oldest park. These trails are easy to find, just follow the fresh wood chips on the ground! More about Buena Vista Park.

Secrets to walking in the rain

I like to bring a thermos of my favorite hot beverage, a plastic bag to sit on, and even a picnic. For real comfort, I bring one of those folding mini camping chairs.

Here’s my “secret” list of sheltered places to rest and picnic:

  • The beautiful porches of public buildings in the Presidio
  • The Pavilion on the island in Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park
  • The porch of the log cabin in Golden Gate Park
  • The dense forests of the Botanical Garden
  • The overhang on the backside of the Maritime Museum by Aquatic Park

Be sure to have a pair of rubber boots so you participate in the wonderful pastimes of puddle jumping and storm drain clearing. There is nothing so satisfying as moving leaves out of the grate and watching the water drain out of an intersection.

Nancy Botkin is a longtime Walk SF volunteer and walk organizer. Nancy is part of “Walk Lab”: a group of knowledgeable and creative volunteers who research routes for Walk SF.